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What happened to alcohol consumption and problems in the Nordic countries when alcohol taxes were decreased and borders opened?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
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2013 (English)In: International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, ISSN 1925-7066, Vol. 2, no 1Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aims: The study tests the effects of reduction in alcohol taxation and increased travellers’ allowances on alcohol consumption and related harm in Denmark, Finland and southern Sweden. In late 2003 and early 2004, taxes on alcoholic beverages were reduced in Denmark and Finland, and the abolition of quantitative quotas on alcohol import for personal use from other European Union countries made cheaper alcohol more available in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. 

Methods: Analyses of routine statistical register data, and summarizing results from longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional population surveys and other previous analyses, with northern Sweden as a control site for secular trends.

Results: Contrary to expectations, alcohol consumption – as based on register data – increased only in Finland and not in Denmark and southern Sweden, and self-reported survey data did not show an increase in any site. In Finland, alcohol-attributable harms in register data increased, especially in people with low socio-economic status. Few such effects were found in Denmark and southern Sweden. Neither did results for self-reported alcohol-attributable problems show any general increases in the three sites. These results remained after controlling for regression to the mean and modelling of drop-outs.

Conclusions: Harms measured in register data did tend to increase in the short term with the policy change, particularly in Finland, where the tax changes were broader. But reducing price and increasing availability does not always increase alcohol consumption and harm.  Effects are dampened in affluent societies, and other factors may intervene.  The results for Finland also suggest some limits for general population surveys in testing for relatively small policy effects.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 2, no 1
Keyword [en]
alcohol, taxation, price, availability, alcohol consumption, alcohol-attributable harm, mortality, cross-border trade, Nordic countries
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-80977OAI: diva2:558680
Nordic tax study
Available from: 2012-10-04 Created: 2012-10-04 Last updated: 2013-02-08Bibliographically approved

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Room, RobinGustafsson, Nina-Katri
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Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD)Department of Sociology

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